How To Hang On To Summer Vibes Through Poetry

Sep 6, 2019
Originally published on September 6, 2019 6:35 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Before you fully hand yourself over to fall, know there are ways to hold on to that summer fun, so says our poetry reviewer Tess Taylor. She has brought us some poems from this year that convey summer.

Hello, Tess.

TESS TAYLOR, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Glad to have you back with us. So I'm thinking hang on to summer, and I'm thinking, I don't know, popsicles and not putting the flip-flops away quite yet. Why poetry? Why is that good to help me stay in the summer mindset?

TAYLOR: Well, one of the great functions of poetry is to sort of stretch time and actually to provide a, like, wonderful escape into daydreams. And, you know, poetry is light and fast. It's - you can read a poem in a minute, and then it can linger with you. And so it's a little way of keeping some daydreaminess with you as we head into this very busy season.

KELLY: So you've picked a few picks for us. And I'm just going to let you walk us through a few of them. The first one is "Casting Deep Shade." It's a poem. It's also a book. I'm just - I've been flipping through it. It's this 259-page ode to beech trees by C.D. Wright. And it's incredible. It's got photographs, some of which are quite artsy, some of which look like you could just lean out your back kitchen window and snap them.

Tell us what should we know about C.D. Wright, and why is this a pick for summer poetry?

TAYLOR: Well, C.D. Wright is one of our great poets. And she passed away, sadly, in 2016, so this is her posthumous work. And it started out as this essay to one beech tree. And she got excited and carried away and ended up doing this sort of compendious encyclopedia of fascinating facts about beech trees that's more like an epic. And it goes on and on.

KELLY: Two-hundred-fifty-nine pages (laughter). It's something.

TAYLOR: I know. I know. It's a little wacky, right? But on the other hand, the book is studded with these amazing facts, like the first flower probably came from beech trees, that scientists actually use beech leaves as they unfold in the spring as a model for solar panels because they're such efficient photosynthesizers.

KELLY: Huh.

TAYLOR: So it just sort of throws you out of time a little bit, and you think to yourself wow, I never saw it that way. And then you're returned to a sense of awe.

KELLY: Read some for us just to give us a taste.

TAYLOR: Sure. So here's page 206. The littlest flowers are unisexual. It is a Stone Age tree, an Iron Age tree, an ice age tree according to the pollen record. Pre-glacial fossil remains have been found.

KELLY: Your next pick is a little different. It's by Jericho Brown, title is "The Tradition." This is an exploration of violence in America, is that right? What - tell me about him and this book.

TAYLOR: Well, yeah, Jericho Brown is just one of my favorite poets working today. He's so musical, and his poems are sort of fierce and rippling. And this book is about violence and racism and even abuse. And those are heavy topics.

KELLY: Read me a little bit.

TAYLOR: "Duplex" - a poem is a gesture towards home. It makes dark demands I call my own. Memory makes demands darker than my own. My last love drove a burgundy car. My first love drove a burgundy car. He was fast and awful, tall as my father. Steadfast and awful, my tall father hit hard as a hailstorm. He'd leave marks. Light rain hits easy but leaves its own mark, like the sound of a mother weeping again, like the sound of my mother weeping again. No sound beating ends where it began. None of the beaten end up how we began. A poem is a gesture towards home.

KELLY: That's powerful and really sad. And not to get hung up on this, but is there a summer theme to this, or is it just that we have the space in the summertime to clear our heads and think deeply about things?

TAYLOR: Well, you know, it is a really difficult topic. And I think that maybe one of the things that we have in summer, hopefully, is a little bit of time to deal with things that are difficult.

KELLY: Your last pick is about time and about dreaminess This is a - it's called "Hour Book." Tell me about this one. Who's it by?

TAYLOR: This poet is named Stefania Heim, and she's written this book where some of the poems are actually just titled as minutes.

KELLY: Wait, hang on. Titled as minutes meaning, like, 2:02 p.m.?

TAYLOR: Exactly. Let me read you some.

KELLY: Sure.

TAYLOR: "1:18 P.M." - periods of transition given to succinctness. It is autumn. I should feel this. I keep typing the same password expecting something to change. And then there's another one - "1:22 P.M." The meaning of the words is hidden. The meaning is hidden in the words.

KELLY: I love this. I actually carry around a little red notebook in my person, jot down things, sometimes with the time like that. It's a nice construct because you don't have to finish the thought. You're just pausing to note something that's worth noting at that particular moment.

TAYLOR: You know, Susan Sontag once said that the notebook is where the artist rehearses himself. And I think that's something we can all relate to. And we can all give ourselves permission, even as we get rushed, to have a little bit of notebook space, and maybe a little doodle or, like, a line of a poem will come out for you, too.

KELLY: I love it. Permission taken with pleasure.

Thank you so much, Tess.

TAYLOR: Thank you, Mary Louise. It's so great to talk to you. Have a great fall.

KELLY: Thank you. You, too. I'll be reading. That is our poetry reviewer Tess Taylor.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Have a great weekend from all of us here at ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.